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Excerpted from The Creative Spirit by Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray. Copyright © 1992 by Daniel Goleman. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Anytime you can just daydream and relax is useful in the creative process: a shower, long drives, a quiet walk."

  Daniel Goleman, The Creative Spirit, Part 4

Perchance to Dream

We are more open to insights from the unconscious mind in moments of reverie, when we are not thinking of anything in particular. That is why daydreams are so useful in the quest for creativity. The fruitfulness of first immersing yourself in a problem, then setting it aside for a while, jibes with the experience of Paul MacCready, an inventor who has tackled creative challenges such as building a human-powered airplane. "You have to get yourself immersed in the subject, and to a certain extent you need some good technical preparation in order to get started," says MacCready. "Then, if it gets interesting to you, you start thinking about it at odd hours. Maybe you can’t come up with a solution, and you forget about it for a while, and suddenly while you’re shaving you get a good idea."

Shaving is one of MacCready’s most creative times: "You have to concentrate just enough so there aren’t too many distractions, and you often find yourself thinking of wildly different subjects and coming up with solutions to some of the day’s challenges or some of the big projects you are dealing with."

Anytime you can just daydream and relax is useful in the creative process: a shower, long drives, a quiet walk. For example, Nolan Bushnell, the founder of the Atari company, got the inspiration for what became a best-selling video game while idly flicking sand on a beach.

"The only big ideas I’ve ever had have come from daydreaming, but modern life seems intent on keeping people from daydreaming," Paul MacCready adds. "Every moment of the day your mind is being occupied, controlled, by someone else. At school, at work, watching television – it’s somebody else’s mind controlling what you think about . Getting away from all that is really important. You need to kick back in a chair or get in a car without having the radio on – and just let your mind daydream."

Wayne Silby, a founder of the Calvert Group, one of the first and largest socially responsible investment funds, took a more deliberate approach to harnessing his unconscious. A change in banking laws was about to make obsolete the main investment tool the fund had used. While funds like Calvert had always been able to offer money market accounts at a higher interest rate than any banks could offer, suddenly banks, too, could offer the same investment. The main competitive advantage for Calvert – and all similar investment funds – was about to vanish.

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